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Clinician's Digest - Page 3

In the March issue of Counselling Psychology Quarterly, lead author Carlton Duff, a doctoral candidate at the University of Alberta, and Bedi argue that therapists may do better therapy by paying more attention to the behaviors that are most appreciated by clients. They asked 79 clients who'd recently been in therapy to rate their therapists on 15 variables thought to affect the alliance. Then they assessed the alliance's strength using the short form of the Working Alliance Inventory. The results: the most powerful alliance-building behaviors turn out to be basic human courtesies and fundamental relationship skills, which have nothing to do with therapists' techniques or diagnostic abilities. Greeting clients with a smile, making eye contact, sitting still without fidgeting, identifying and reflecting back feelings, making encouraging and positive comments, truthfully sharing negative information, normalizing feelings and experiences, and remembering details from previous sessions turned out to be extremely important factors, accounting for 62 percent of the variance in the strength of the alliances.

Bedi worries that today's psychology education isn't emphasizing relationship-building skills enough. "We tend to get seduced by techniques and strategies," he says. "We need to focus more on empirically supported therapists, rather than empirically supported treatments." Duff concurs, "Simply making clients feel like they're important and that their experience is valid may be among the most important things we can focus on in therapy."

As Time Goes By

Time isn't just money: it's the essence of our existence, and how we experience time affects how we experience our lives. When we're deep in meditation, or even in a state of flow and completely absorbed in what we're doing, we come as close to transcending the ticking clock as mortal beings can. Research seems to indicate that we do better work when we're in a state of flow or after meditating. But increasingly, we find ourselves harried and cut off from any possibility of flow.

A sense of accelerated time has been shown to breed anxiety, depression, disconnection from others and ourselves, and even a sense of meaninglessness. In a classic 1977 experiment, seminary students were asked to prepare a lecture on the Good Samaritan. Then the researchers instructed some of the students to hurry over to another building to present a lecture on the subject and told others that they had plenty of time, but that they might as well get there early. Along the way to the lecture hall, they all passed someone who appeared to be gagging and fainting. Only the students who thought they had plenty of time before they delivered their lecture on the Good Samaritan stopped to help. The connection between heartlessness and time pressure is explored further by psychologist Robert Levine in his 1997 book, A Geography of Time. He writes that, generally, in cities with the fastest pace of living, people are the least likely to do such simple acts of kindness as give change for a dollar or help a blind person across a street.

Reviewing the research on the subjective sense of time and adding their own studies, psychologists William Friedman and Steve Janssen report in the June issue of Acta Psychologica that, these days, young adults and older people alike feel that time is moving unexpectedly quickly. They add that as far back as the 1970s, people of different age groups have reported a sense that time is speeding up.

"We are hertz machines in a megahertz world," write psychologists Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd in their 2008 book, The Time Paradox, pointing out that human brains have a processing speed of about 4 hertz compared to desktop computers with more than 3 gigahertz—75 million times faster. In the 1950s, futurists predicted that the biggest problem facing human beings at the end of the millennium would be what to do with all the leisure time that machines would create, but we've since learned that the more "time-saving" devices we have, the more things we feel compelled to do—and the more quickly. Many of today's efficiencies appear to be robbing us of both quality of life and time.

Psych Textbooks: What's New?

Introductory psychology textbooks don't merely present information: they're conceptual gatekeepers, influencing how the field is defined and redefined over time. In the April edition of the Observer, published by the Association for Psychological Science, eight authors of classic introduction to psychology textbooks talk about the trends and research that are noteworthy enough to merit inclusion in their latest editions—as well as the difficulties of incorporating the new material.

The article illustrates how the axis of psychology has shifted as a result of the developments in biological psychiatry. Today, says Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, a coauthor of Atkinson and Hilgard's Introduction to Psychology, "Instructors have to fight against students' assumptions that mental disorders are only due to biological factors, and that biological treatments are always better than psychological ones."

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